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Davos, Searching For A New Social Contract

A view on the mountains in Davos
A view on the mountains in Davos
Stéphane Benoit-Godet

The global economy is doing wonderfully well. And yet, its key players are wary. Why? Because for all the good news about GDP growth, there are signs of deepening divisions in society, and a sense that for many people around the world, life will be harder for their children than it has been for themselves.

BlackRock, the largest fund manager in the world, just called for a change of perspective by urging its clients to strive to do good. Even the World Economic Forum (WEF) now replaces analysis of GDP evolution with an "inclusive development index" and thus pays less attention to short-term growth. The standard macroeconomic indicators, in other words, don't tell the whole story, they argue.

This is not the first time the WEF has delved into the world not just of numbers, but values. The Forum earlier developed the idea of stakeholders, which holds that companies shouldn't only take into account their shareholders. They should also pay attention to employees, their partners and the entire community around them. The proposal goes back, in fact, to the origins of the event in 1971 and very much reflects the post-war Western vision that presumed to have found the keys to harmonious development.

The moment for a new social contract has come

For a long time, the alliance of democracy and free market was enough to make people happy. But now, in a growing number of countries, people are acutely concerned about the future. Such is time we're living in — a state of affairs, as we see in a number of cases, that populists are cashing in on. The complexity of the world is difficult to summarize in two words, unlike the "us' and "them" discourse of fear mongers and would-be wall builders.

Right now, Davos is preparing to receive U.S. President Donald Trump. Not only because he will be there on Friday, but also because the elite that promotes openness to the world and respect for institutions is wondering just what is the true nuisance capacity of a president who is both protectionist and unable to cope with the uses imposed by democracy.

Who can rescue us? Many had hoped that technology would have the capacity to impose a new paradigm by giving everyone access to knowledge. This project has failed, and now technology is no longer the solution; instead it's just another problem. The companies that dominate the world of innovation extort consent from their members, push for addictive consumption of their products and disrupt the debate. So much so that the public authorities will have to intervene.

How then to direct energies in the direction of a development that's both sustainable and respectful of individual freedoms? The synthesis of all these issues — if possible — will take the form of a new narrative that focuses on the assumed sovereignty of states in the face of sprawling societies. To gain popular adherence, it will also have to take into account culture, as it relates the concept of shared values.

The striking exposure of inequalities between men and women over the past few months shows how our societies often think they are more sophisticated and homogenous than they actually are. It was the WEF, after all, that recently pointed out how, based on current trends, it will take another 217 years to achieve equal pay between the two sexes. The moment for a new social contract has come. And Davos is one of the places where it will be defined.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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